Monday, July 22, 2013

"Dear Alzheimer's: A Caregiver's Diary & Poems" Publication Date, August 2013

Dear Friends,

I'm so happy to tell you that my essays and poems are finally appearing between the covers of a book, put together so beautifully by Douglass P. Johnson and Cave Moon Press. It has been my honor to work with this project in conjunction with Doug, and I hope you will join us for our launch. Champagne included (if allowed). Thanks for your support, Esther




Sunday September 8, 2013

3 P.M.

Published by Cave Moon Press, Yakima, WA., 2013

For more information, please visit



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Friday, April 26, 2013

PoMo2013 - Poem 26 - Nikky Finney

Nikky Finney, Last night

Seattle Arts and Lectures' Poetry Series, 4/25/13 


Be generous, she said
after rounds of stand-up applause
for the 10th grade WITS* poet
who read her poem
before Finney walked on stage
to more stand-up
from a Seattle audience
who made her feel,
she said, like a rock star.

Be generous she repeated.
Support your poets out loud.
Give them tools
to craft their work is
what Finney’s mother did
and her grandmother
and siblings
and her father too.
And then came Colleen McElroy
(in the audience)
who taught her excellence
and Lucille Clifton who,
finding the younger poet scrambling
and embarrassed at her door,
said:  Come on in child.
And then came Nikki Giovanni
whose own mother helped red-ink
Finney’s poems-in-progress.
and later paraded
them down the street.

Be generous, Finney said
support your kin
treat them as if
they are
already famous
so they 
to say
their poems
out loud.

Be generous,
so the poet
can tell
her stories.
and tell them

-Esther Altshul Helfgott

*Writers in the School

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

PoMo2013 - Poem 25 - "Accident"



The son and father
whose parents were killed
and wife and baby injured
by a drunk driver
across from the school yard
heard about the accident
on the news.
He had a hunch it was his family
and raced over to Harborview 
Hospital to find his life
was over
as he had known it.
Flowers line the curbside
along NE 75th
where the family's bodies
laid strewn across the street,
the drunk driver
leaning on a police car
and a first responder
so shaken he can't work
the district
for the next two weeks. 
When he returns,
the first call
he gets 
is from a
whose house
got egged. 
What a relief ,
his body
-Esther Altshul Helfgott

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

PoMo2013 - poem 24 - "To the Aspiring Poet"


Poems are to be
used in everyday life
is my answer to the aspirng poet
who wants to publish in the New Yorker
and nowhere else, except maybe a
peer-review journal that makes you wait
a year or more before a committee
decides your work
meets its editorial needs.


What this aspiring poet doesn’t know
is that poetry needs to sing in the rain
it needs to come alive in the middle of an afternoon.
It needs to dance 
in the dark
of night.

It’s not just the poet who needs
Poems have needs too.
They need to be outside
everyday, in the fresh,
or the stale, air.


This aspiring poet does the work of poetry. She writes .
She attends poetry gatherings and discusses her work
with other writers.
She reads in open mikes
and once in awhile
gives her own fifteen-minute readings.
She  keeps a journal of her days
and a notebook full of poems.
Most of all, she reads poetry, lots of poetry.
She doesn’t need a famous magazine to tell her she’s a poet.
She already is and shouldn’t hide her work
in envelopes waiting to be read.
Send them out, I tell her.
Or post them on a blog.


But if I post them on my blog, she says,
the journals won’t accept them.
That’s their loss, I tell her.
Besides, the world is changing
The publishing world is.
Famous is not what it used to be.


The poem is a vehicle for responding
to current events, to the goings-on around you.
Poetry-making need not be a closed network,
unless you participate in making it so.
Speak your poems now, I advise this poet.
People are waiting to hear you. 
I'm waiting to hear you. 

-Esther Altshul Helfgott

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

PoMo2013 - Poem 23- "Fifth Grade"

Fifth Grade
  If your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything.
                                                                     - David Foster Wallace

When I was in elementary school,
I got A+’s in Handwriting.
In fifth grade, the only student
who came close to me in that subject
was a boy named Barry.
I don't know
what happened
to Barry and his handwriting
but mine led me
to hours of anguish.
I’d get all the way to the end of a page
without making a mistake
and then
on the last line
if my cursive wasn’t just right
and if an erasure
to expose my imperfections
I'd have to re-start.
My sister said I made her crazy
watching me
to my 5th grade-pen pal.
And you know the envelopes
had to be perfect too (but that's
another story).

For class, I wrote my stories
over and over again
and I wrote with a #3 pencil,
as if I didn’t want anybody
to see what I was writing.

Mother kept telling me
to use #2 pencils,
but the print
didn’t look as pretty
on the page.

To make a long story short:
I got A+ in Handwriting,
but I didn’t turn
my work in
on time.

This led people to think I was slow.
- Esther Altshul Helfgott

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Monday, April 22, 2013

PoMo2013- poem 22 - A Woman Is

Circa 1946

A woman is

her body of work
which is
her thinking
inside her


Esther Altshul Helfgott

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PoMo2013 Worth It - poem 21

Worth It

fight and fight
to stay alive
they die.
I don't get it.

If I believed
in God (for sure)
would my
questions be
the same?

On the other
the answers
don't matter.
It's the fight that's
worth it.
-Esther Altshul Helfgott

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

PoMo2013 "Call (My Baltimore) Sandy"

Today's To Do List

Call (My Baltimore) Sandy


Say hello to Sandy = half hour
Laugh with Sandy = one hour
Cry with Sandy = 15 minutes
Laugh with Sandy = half hour
Say goodbye to Sandy = 1 hour


Check your phone bill


-Esther Altshul Helfgott


Friday, April 19, 2013

PoMo2013 - Poem 19

Can't sleep

Even though I can't sleep
-  it's been hours -
the dog's snoring soothes me.

What's keeping me up
but a list of things:
Drunken drivers

Gas stations
in Washington,
Bad politicians,

Good things keep me up too:
The man at the diner 
who asked me out.
The library book 
I want to write in.
Tap dancing lessons.

My parents,
children ,
and siblings
The bowling
league I just

My book
coming out
this summer!

Life is good
because more people
are precious
than they are monstrous,
say the news

my dog's
warms mine.
I'll take her to the park--
if it doesn't rain.

-Esther Altshul Helfgott

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PoMo2013 - Poem 18

Artist Trust/Edge Reading

Seattle is a place to blossom as we turn the pages of our lives,    
an ideal place to grow into crone-hood.
                                       - Faye Reitman                                            

Eighteen cross-genre writers
reading five minutes each
take turns lavishing
personal idiosyncrasies
and tone
on a packed house
of language lovers.

I ask the woman sitting next to me,
tears streaming down her face.
why she's crying
and she says:

They're so good,
They've worked hard
and I'm proud of them.

I squeeze her hand
and the two of us hug
as if we knew
each other
long before

My friend Faye
up from California

I heard Seattle
was a reading town
But I didn't know
it was a place to blossom
in the basement of a book store
or on someone else's unseen page.
I think I'll move here.

And she did.
         -Esther Altshul Helfgott

PoMo2013 - Poem 17

Abe, Lisa & Hunter

Abe's Red Suspenders

He wore red socks too.
That's what caught my eye.
The red socks,
ski hat, and twinkly eyes.
He sat down next to me,
held out his hand
and said Hi.
I'm Abe.
What could I do
but shake his hand
and say Hi
back. Where you from,
he asked. Easy to tell
I wasn't from Seattle.
Baltimore, I said.
The Bronx, he announced
as if it were the center of the world
and it was to him, still,
albeit he'd been away from there
thirty years or more.

No coincidence we met
in a Jewish history class
at a neighborhood shul.
In Seattle, Jews
who never walked into a shul
before moving West
ended up in one just to hear familiar Ashkenazi sounds
to meet people who moved their hands when they talked -
I move mine a lot - so he liked me, not just for that
of course, but also because I liked his red socks
which I told him, and it made him smile.

At the time he wasn't wearing suspenders
but later, when we were married
at least ten years and he started wearing
them because his body was changing
and belts didn't work as well any more,
I liked them - those suspenders - too.
He's been gone almost three years now
and I still have the suspenders
but I threw the red socks out.

-Esther Altshul Helfgott


Thursday, April 18, 2013

PoMo2013-Poem 16


Food Poisoning

Shell fish dinner
brought me here
to Group Health
at the top.


Monday, April 15, 2013

PoMo2013- Poem 15 - Boston marathon

 Daughter's medal

All three of my children
     home tonight
are marathon runners
    in New York

Damn to the haters
          who would take
               their lives away.
You are despicable.

               There is no poetry
                       in the work you do.

Your purpose
                   is shame.

- Esther Altshul Helfgott

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